I’m reading Number the Stars with my class right now. If you haven’t read it, you really should. It’s a great story and very well written. Plus it’s short and on about a 4th-grade reading level, so it might take you a weekend to get through. It’s about a Danish family that helps their Jewish friends escape before the Nazis can “relocate” them.
My students are really enjoying it, and I’m using it to help them start getting comfortable using context clues to guess the meanings of unfamiliar words. We’ve done a lot of work on how to use the context to figure out what part of speech a word is, and now I’m starting to get them thinking about what’s happening so they can take a stab at the meaning as well. They still need a lot of help with it, though, so when they ask the meaning of a word, I walk them through the process by asking questions. Who is in this sentence? Where are they? What are they doing? What is that like? Imagine you were in this situation. What would you be doing? How would you do it?
Today, one of the words in question was “weep,” and I almost demonstrated involuntarily.
The context was that a Jewish mother and father were trying to escape with their baby when the Nazis arrived to investigate an unusual gathering of folks late in the evening. Everyone got through that particular encounter just fine, but it was understandably frightening, so when the Nazis came in, the mother held her baby tightly and started to weep.
Many of my students are mothers with young children, so I asked them, “What would you do if you thought someone might take your baby away?” And that’s when I almost lost it myself. I turned to write a definition of “weep” on the board, and I took my time erasing what was in my way and writing my definition so they wouldn’t see my face as I pulled it together. When I turned back around, I had on a happy face, and they were none the wiser.
I’m doing better. I really am. I don’t cry every day anymore. I can get out of bed and go to work. I exercise most days and eat good-for-me foods, and I feel good about myself for making those decisions. I laugh and sing and dance. I have more hope now than I’ve had since the summer. But I have also gotten better at hiding my feelings from most of the people I see regularly. It’s not that I’m trying to be fake. It’s that even though I don’t want to be sad, I still am, but I don’t want people to feel like they’ve done or said something wrong. They haven’t. If I’m crying, it is in no way your fault. I’m just sad. That is my context at the moment.
I know this is kind of a downer of a post, but today (this whole week really) has been hard, and I felt like I’d hidden it enough and needed to share it.